Agriculture

March 25, 2021

What Does the Future Hold for IIoT, Automation, and Edge Computing?

 

 

From narrowband communications to edge computing, FreeWave continues to solve significant customer challenges with IIoT, automation, and data collection.

We are excited about our 2021 product roadmap. We are making a significant leap forward into Edge Computing. This quarter, we will be releasing two new products:  FreeWave Edge and FreeWave Fusion Bridge. Before we look at these new solutions and where we are heading,I’d like to take a quick look back

FreeWave has worked primarily in the industrial markets for 27 years, most notably with oil and gas, utilities, and water/wastewater. We would occasionally take on side projects with the military helping out their robotics teams with drones and other technologies, but we have traditionally focused on robust, narrowband communications links. And when I say “narrowband,” I mean the very, very small bits of data that go back and forth in SCADA systems or command and control systems in general.

When I came aboard four years ago, the idea was to start pivoting FreeWave toward IIoT in the edge. We began developing radio hardware in the narrowband world that would allow us to do edge computing. As a radio company, this was trailblazing stuff, and we weren’t quite aware of what we were getting ourselves into.

Now, before diving deeper, I’d like to reflect on last year’s events.

 

A Look Back at 2020

The pandemic caused us to make significant changes. FreeWave started 2020 with many legacy products and product lines, and it became hard to find the components we needed to push those products forward.

We recognized that we’d need to do a significant uplift of these legacy products by rebuilding them from the ground up and ensuring that they were backward-compatible with everything else we had out in the marketplace. After all, we were still talking about 900 megahertz products!

In July, we acquired a small software company with a robust solution set focused on proprietary protocols. The acquisition allowed us to focus on the edge with a whole other engineering team section, which is fantastic. 

Because of this acquisition, our edge computers now come native with protocol converters, which means you can translate proprietary languages brought into the cloud into any language you want.

In my opinion, our transition from a primarily OEM and widget manufacturer into a full-blown software application company was a massive win. On top of that, we are currently updating a full SCADA suite that’s been well-received.

 

What You Can Expect from FreeWave in the Next 12 Months

We are excited about our 2021 product roadmap as we make a significant leap forward into Edge Computing. This quarter, we will be releasing two new products:  FreeWave Edge and FreeWave Fusion Bridge.

FreeWave Edge is a data platform that lets customers extract real-time information from their sensors and devices. Edge also allows users to customize alerts and data processing and connects to a customer’s preferred cloud or reporting system. Edge helps companies suffering from unreliable data (or no data at all) improve their operations and, ultimately, accelerates business outcomes. 

Fusion Bridge is a dual-radio WiFi bridge that introduces connectivity and sensor fusion to 900Mhz networks. New FreeWave customers often have trouble accessing on-site data and quickly transmitting the information to the home office. They’ll install on-site routers to get WiFi connectivity, which can be expensive, and the equipment is usually in the open, where it’s vulnerable to theft. Fusion Bridge enables mobile equipment with WiFi to seamlessly connect smart devices with headquarters. The tool eliminates security vulnerabilities specific to an always-on remote AP and protects on-site assets through the quick and straightforward integration of off-the-shelf wireless security equipment. 

 

The Roles IIoT and Data Collection Will Play in the Future of Industrial Automation

The future roles of IIoT and data collection are significant. There have been many tire-kickers on the manufacturing side, but nothing comes close to what will occur in the next few years with the various applications coming on-board.

We’re entering an exciting era. FreeWave is looking at the possibility of developing – and investing in – the different ways people handle data at the edge and how people make decisions using artificial intelligence. I think this is where many companies will focus their energy — on more of the indoor IoT market, or perhaps even with things like your thermostat. All of the stuff you interact with daily. The possibilities will be endless.

 

Critical Advancements in Data Collection and Communication

Companies increasingly want to get more real-time information and insights from their data. Folks have been able to collect a limited amount of data for at least 50 years. Still, if they needed more information, they would have to send someone out to collect data in-person and report back with their findings. In an agile and increasingly competitive world, this kind of data collection is unacceptable. 

People want to quickly identify urgent issues on-site and make the necessary adjustments right then and there. And with today’s technological advancements, we can do just that! 

For example, an HR team came to us with concerns that their workers might not be wearing helmets while on a project. They needed to ensure OSHA compliance on a remote site. Using artificial intelligence on a Well Pad, we collected and reported data to them in real-time.

 

Why Customers Return to FreeWave for Multiple Projects

We offer an exceptional product; that’s why people return to FreeWave again and again. I still hear from people calling about our first product (DGR). It’s over 20 years old and still in-use! Let’s face it; when people find a reliable, durable product that works, they will continue to come back.

Our exceptional customer service is another reason customers return. We provide in-house tech support in the Boulder, Colorado, area (where we also manufacture FreeWave products), and we have a 24-hour hotline for folks needing troubleshooting and installation help. 

 

Advice to Customers

Customers need to question the viability of the companies with which they are currently working. New companies are flooding the market; you need to get a sense of their success and growth opportunities. 

You should also critique the knowledge and support you receive from these companies. Because you’re going to need expert advice at some point, this is something FreeWave always provides. 

I also suggest customers consider the flexibility of their current partners. A company’s ability to adjust, pivot, change and tweak the product based on what is required is critical.

 

The Current Challenges and Trends for IIoT Customers

One of the most significant challenges is predicting what technologies people will embrace and then successfully manufacturing those tools. And honestly, the challenge isn’t new – it’s been an issue for decades. With intelligent people continually developing new and unique things, we are regularly tasked with making difficult decisions.

Also, the technology boom has slowed considerably because of COVID. So much that many smaller startups are struggling, which is a shame. But at the same time, the decline allows people to reevaluate their endeavors so that they can address important questions like, “Will anyone benefit from this technology?” or “Will this technology succeed as part of the IIoT revolution?”

Enterprises keep moving along rapidly; the older guard is leaving, and the door is opening for bright, young folks with crazy ideas that they want to see in the world. People who have played with sophisticated equipment for many years and who can look at the hardware and ask, “Why are we doing this?” or, “Can we do it all in software?” 

This kind of forward-thinking is where FreeWave shines.

Are you ready to improve your remote operations? Get smart with FreeWave today.



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